Manager defends defunding of community services because "they have a lot of money" minutes after completing payments in 2022 approaching $300k to scrub Township's reputation
At its December 21 meeting, the Kennett Township Board of Board of Supervisors (KT-BOS) confirmed that it was eliminating its entire $5,000 contribution to Kennett Area Community Services (KACS). The decision to cut funding to Kennett's major provider of support to families in need was puzzling at first, and officials justified their decision claiming that KACS "has a lot of money". But given the massive sums flowing freely in 2022 and 2023 to ventures of dubious value, the KT-BoS' argument rings hollow. For families struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their head, Kennett's actions were as chilling as the threatening polar vortex.
When we first learned of the proposed cut, buried on p. 59 of Kennett Township's 69 page budget presented on October 5, 2022, we reached out to KACS to clarify the benefits specifically provided to Kennett Township residents. The numbers are staggering - in the previous year, KACS provided assistance for food and housing to almost 500 Kennett Township residents, totaling almost $500,000! So for every dollar donated by Kennett Township last year, KACS delivered $100 of support. It is hard to imagine a better return on an investment in Kennett's community.
We also reviewed KACS' most recent, publicly available tax filings, covering the fiscal year ending in September 2020. In contrast with other organizations that spend heavily on extravagant overhead or self-promotion, less than 10% of expenses were directed towards management and fundraising. It is more accurate to say that KACS had a lot of money, almost all of which it promptly turned around to help families in need in Kennett and neighboring townships.
Comments on the 2023 budget document specify that support was eliminated to KACS "due to its large funding base". This rationale is short-sighted at best. In their most recent tax filings, KACS reported that over 90% of its money was raised through donations from individuals and businesses - less that 5% came from government grants. The extent to which KACSs relies on private donations means that it must demonstrate its value to the community every year: KACS has a large funding base because it has earned it.
It is true that KACS raised a lot more money - $1.5M more - in 2020 compared to 2019. But that was because KACS - and its supporters - stepped up when COVID hit, dramatically increasing the number of families facing food and housing insecurity. Unlike most other organizations, KACS never closed its doors during the pandemic. And it did not just maintain its services, it increased the amount of assistance it delivered by more than 50%!
Comments regarding KACS' "large funding base" are ironic coming from a municipal government body. Kennett Township has a captive funding base that is likely even larger - most of its operating revenue comes from taxes on property owners and income earners. KACS's donors decide to give depending on the value they see in the organization's work. Kennett Supervisors raised $400,000 at the December 21st meeting with barely a stroke of its pen, just by increasing property taxes by more than 20%.
The attempt to justify the funding cut because KACS "has a lot of money" is also ironic, given the kind of expenditures the KT-BoS approved without hesitation at the same meeting, for services of dubious value. For example, the December 21st bill voucher included a $38,405.25 bill from the public relations (PR) firm Envisian Strategic to pay for 4 months of PR centered on spinning the $250,000 "independent ethics review" by BlankRome. We think the KT-BoS should have tried harder to save $5000 from the $300,000 it spent over the previous year to scrub the stain of ethical concerns raised by residents, before simply cutting all support to families in need just days before Christmas. But because they did not, they may instead begin 2023 with fresh stains, and still more PR costs.